Summertime with Nana

Summertime with Nana

I love my Nana the most

Nana the most

Nana the most

I love my Nana the most

Yes I do

“Nana” is what Cade calls my sister Iris. Yes, she taught him this song. Yes, he sings it at the top of his lungs. Yes, he means every word of it. Do you have a Nana? Perhaps it’s an aunt or uncle, a teacher, that special friend or mentor. The person that always believed in you. The one that held your hand as you dissected your way through life. What if you had a chance to repay this person? What would you do?

It was shortly following Memorial Day, an unusually hot morning as I prepared for work. Exhausted, my wife and I stared in the bathroom mirror. With matching dark circles, our eyes told a story.

“How’s my hair?” I queried.

It was a rough night but never underestimate the power of good hair. Slowly Julee’s eyes drifted over. “Really?” She questioned. “Are you really worried about your hair right now?”

“Somebody got up on the wrong side of the bed.” With a smack on her bottom and a kiss on her cheek I continued, “If only we were lucky enough to go to bed last night.”

Cade’s allergies spawned a tornado of a migraine that ravaged our happy home. By 4:00am we picked up the shattered glass and sighed. Cade was finally calm and fast asleep on the couch. Worried that we would get no sleep the next couple hours, we got no sleep. The past few months have proven to be rough. My transition back to full-time employment had taken a toll on Cade.

Raising a child with disabilities is both physically and financially draining. There are periods of darkness that will challenge your very core. A beacon of hope approached on the horizon. Summertime with Nana is something Cade longs for autumn through spring. Nana’s a small woman with a big heart. Growing up, she was always the backbone of my family. With fifteen years between us she has been my sister, friend and mentor for as long as I can remember. Iris and I share the same pointy nose and chin, the same brown eyes and the same brown curly hair. We’re both prone to frizziness in the southern humidity. So just like me, she appreciates a good hair day.

She was always a generous soul, my sister. Her own financial burdens didn’t matter. Perhaps she got that from my grandmother. Grandma Mary lived a very meager life. What little she had she gave. Even on the coldest winter days, her goodness warmed my heart.

There was an Arctic blast approaching. At times, the most southern parts of Louisiana can be bone-chilling. With several space heaters going, Grandma Mary did what she could to keep her modest trailer warm. Concerned for her comfort I went shopping for the heaviest quilt I could find. I was just fifteen years old at the time. With money I saved by working on a shrimp boat I purchased the quilt. Grandma Mary lived alone once my grandfather passed. Alone until someone needed help that is. Her door was always open to those in need. At the time my brother Casie was living with her. Casie was in his thirties. Suffering from mental illness, he rarely kept a job.

A couple days into the freeze I called. “Are you keeping warm?”

“Yes baby,” she replied. “We’re both staying nice and warm. We just have to wear a sweater during the day.”

“And at night?” I asked.

“Night time hasn’t been bad at all. Thank you so much for the nice quilt you bought me. I took my scissors and cut it in half. Now Casie can sleep well too.”

Just like our sharp-cornered facial features and frizzy hair, generosity runs deep in my family. From new clothes and school supplies to the latest Prince cassette, whenever in need my sister was there. She and my brother-in-law SJ gave hope to my teenage years. Aside from shrimp season I spent most of my summer at their house.

Now, some thirty years later, their home has also become a haven for my son to getaway. Cade loves summertime with Nana. He loves chatting about Batman on long walks through wooded acres with SJ. Cade calls him Pee-Paw. He loves sharing popcorn at the cinema while watching the latest summer blockbusters with Nana. Cade likes his buttered. He loves dancing while preparing for his upcoming talent show at Camp Sunshine. Cade loves Camp Sunshine. It’s a week-long celebration for people with disabilities. He loves the peace and joy of being himself. Cade loves everything about summertime with Nana, but most of all he loves her meatloaf.

My son never knew his grandparents. The last surviving grandparent passed soon after his birth. Because of my sister and brother-in-law, Cade never knew the difference. How do you repay people like them? You repay them through growth. You repay them by becoming a better person. Much of who I am I owe to the love and support they provided. The best thing you can do to repay the Nana in your life is to live. Live life for the precious gift that it is knowing that one day our summer will be over.

Kelly Jude Melerine